Vladimir Putin opens the 2018 FIFA World Cup
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which kicked off in Russia on Thursday.
Russia is hosting the FIFA World Cup for the first time in history. The matches will be held at 12 stadiums across 11 Russian cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Sochi, Yekaterinburg, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Volgograd and Samara.
The Russian president also expressed gratitude to FIFA President Gianni Infantino for his positive attitude toward Russia and the great job he has done as the FIFA head.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be the 21st FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial international football tournament contested by the men's national teams of the member associations of FIFA. It is scheduled to take place in Russia from 14 June to 15 July 2018, after the country was awarded the hosting rights on 2 December 2010.
This will be the first World Cup held in Europe since the 2006 tournament in Germany, the first ever to be held in Eastern Europe and the eleventh time that it has been held in Europe. All of the stadium venues are in European Russia to keep travel time manageable.
The final tournament will involve 32 national teams, which include 31 teams determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team.
Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making back-to-back appearances following the last tournament in 2014, including defending champions Germany, while Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup. A total of 64 matches will be played in 12 venues located in 11 cities. The final will take place on 15 July at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The winners of the World Cup will qualify for the 2021 FIFA Confederations Cup. Pre-tournament, favorites to win the final were Brazil, France, Germany and Spain.